Yesterday, for the Varese Design Week, Nicola Mazzeo (Rizomi Art Brut) and me were invited as Artètipi to talk about the possible relationships between art brut and design. Two worlds seemingly incongruous.

Design, in its various meanings, creates consumer objects, places, spaces, and relationships between people through a creative solution to the problems analyzed by an active eye on the world; art brut was born far from sociality (the three S of Lucienne Peiry – silence, secret, solitude). The “brut” creator, rather than focusing on what is happening outside themselves, define the world with their own rules.

The ateliers reality often welcomes collaborations with companies, designers, and stylists. Creative Growth Art Center is an example. The californian center has collaborated with Vans, Sonos, Marc Jacobs, Esqueleto and a host of other projects important for promoting its activities and including their partecipants in the work world.

La Tinaia of Florence (Italy) realized a collaboration with BigSur in 2010. It was “ArtB”, a series of t-shirts, books, furnishings reproducing the works of the artists.
These products are communicative artifacts to wear, look and touch that become a way to approach art brut.


L’OCCHIO, lampada/lamp, cm 49×40, ArtB (BigSur + La Tinaia), 2010

Another example is the idea adopted by Valcucine that has made a silk screen printing on the glass of a work of Gianluca Pirrotta, young artist of sicilian origins but now active in Atelier Manolibera, near Mantova. The idea falls within the project “Artematica vitrum” (2011), series of kitchens characterized by the presence of works of art applied on tempered glass through a special colored film. The facade of the furniture looks like a great murals in which the constituent elements are highlighted in the form of bricks that, placed one above the other, define its perpendicularity. The structure, called by the same drawing, becomes a sort of material construction and support of the overall effect.

Gianluca acted autonomously on another object of everyday life: a chair. Progetto Itaca 2011 organized an exhibition with a charity auction entitled “My favorite chair”. Pirrotta intervened with his graphic texture on the rake surface of an Ikea chair, covering the object as a casing. The result, a chair totally stripped of its primary function (the composing parts have been reassembled), is characterized by the irregularity of the line which highlight the uniqueness that basically distinguished it from a serial product.

L: Valcucine + Gianluca Pirrotta, Artematica Vitrum 2011 / R: Gianluca Pirrotta, La mia sedia preferita, 2011

Many projects also in fashion: Raw Vision collaborates with Comme de Garçons in 2014; a previous experience of Rei Kawakubo with Dan Michiels of Creativity Explored in San Francisco (2013); the most recent collaboration between Christopher Kane and the Gugging.

Christopher Kane + Gugging, 2016/2017

I could go forward again for a little bit, but on the other hand there is also someone who, in his world, continues to create in autonomy, an “unconscious designer” of visionary worlds. Who?

I think of Gregory Warmack, collector of beads and small things with which he realizes jewelry to sell on the streets of Chicago. In 1978 he has a premonition: someone will kill him. And he was wounded by two gun shots. During the attempts of resuscitation he has a mediumistic experience and, strongly felt by what he experienced, he decides to “reborn” as “Mr. Imagination”. Mr. I begins to decorate totem, transform chairs in regal thrones, embellish coats, jewelry and hats with metal bottle caps. Its daily is transformed, made “beautiful” to defeat the miseries of life.

He also works on brushes that, as the chair of Pirrotta, lost their main function, and becoming masks which refer to distant worlds.

The ratio of “outsiders” with objects is extremely fascinating, especially if this things surround their daily. The australian Terry Williams copies everything that is significant for him: some of his works – such as telephone or radio – remember the works of Oldenburg, but here the commitment is different, as it is different the relationship with the world. Even so Benjamin Binder, a young german artist who creates protective speakers for dictaphone and media players.

Mr. Imagination

Egidio Cuniberti instead, has created furniture. He was born and died in Mondovì, began working in Fiat foundries (Turin). At the age of 24, after a fall in bicycle, he is subjected to a surgical intervention for a brain hemorrhage. This will be due its frequent headaches, convulsions and insomnia.

In 1971 he stops working and he begins to collect waste and objects on the road useful for his furniture, sculptures and paintings. He uses cassettes of fruit and vegetables for the structure, then he uses sticks of ice cream, spoons of plastic, pieces of wood for cover the structure. He has implemented approximately 130 pieces, furniture that in certain cases exceed 2 meters, tables and totem.

Also Giovanni Battista Podestà has “altered” chests and furniture, but are also interesting his interventions on umbrellas and clothing that he wears in his walks. He uses furniture, walls, and body as a support of expression. The body as “ itinerant word” is a concept findable in Eijiro Miyama that swims in bicycle to Yokohama wearing hats made of boxes of instant noodles and pieces of dummies.

Then I think to André Robillard with its guns; Mattia Fiordispino with his highly detailed aerial construction; Eugene Von Bruenchenhein with its thrones of chicken bones.
Here too, we could go on forever. Sweep from a galaxy to another ones to explore the individual worlds and their “designer”.

Gloria Marchini


Egidio Cuniberti © Rizomi Art Brut

Gianluca Pirrotta Monograph; Giulia Pettinari, Per filo e per segno. Intrecci tra moda e outsider art; Lucienne Peiry, L’art brut, Paris, Flammarion, 2016